by Travis Sanderson, past dsmHack participant and nonprofit committee member
So you’re a nonprofit and you have some technical needs that aren’t being met, but you’re not sure if your project or problem is worth submitting to dsmHack? Let’s introduce you to your new team of dsmHack volunteers and tell you a little more about who they are and what they can do. That might help you decide.
The teams that form during the hackathon come from all over the area. Some of us are freelancers, some are salary workers, and some are self-employed or even students. We’re not all developers, either. You’ll find Delivery Managers / Agile Coaches looking out to help keep the team’s eyes on the prize and ensure they’re not running into brick walls. There may be a Product Manager working with you to help make sure we understand the problem, your target audience, and other harder to define requirements. There’s also bound to be a User Interaction type person nearby that can help the developers give you something that is functional, usable, and beautiful. One of the coolest things about the hack is that even if your specific group is missing one of these types, we’re all in it together and your team will get the help they need to be successful.
Do you find yourself manually repeating a mundane task on your computer? Pulling information from one place and putting it into another place in a slightly different format? Maybe sending out emails or invites to people after manually building out the “to” field. In general, software is great at solving repetitive tasks automatically. Automating these types of tasks can make great dsmHack projects.
Do you have an app idea that would help your organization? You’re in luck, apps have gotten significantly easier to develop over the years! There are frameworks that make writing cross-platform (think iPhone and Android at the same time) apps much, much easier than the old method of writing two entire apps. There’s also a plethora of ready-made services just waiting to be leveraged. In short, many app ideas are totally doable in a 48 hour hack.
If your organization doesn’t have a website yet, this is an easy one: let us create one for you. We do this a lot! We can create a really impressive website out of thin air in just 48 hours. If you already have a website, maybe there is something you’d like people to be able to do with or for your organization online like donate, buy things, sign up for volunteer hours. We can expand the scope of your existing website to do all sorts of things.
The folks participating in the hack have a wide variety of experience. As I mentioned, some of them are students, and those students will blow your mind with how much they can accomplish. A lot of us are seasoned veterans of the industry, some are new on the scene – hungry and full of energy. I’ll let you guess which one is more likely to pull an all-nighter and survive. Suffice it to say, many of the people on your team know how to get $%#! done.
Now, the 8 hour work day is a standard for a reason; it’s not sustainable to work more than that. However, for short periods of time we have found that people can be pretty productive for long bouts of time, especially if they are engaged, passionate, and full of energy drinks. You may only have us for 48 hours but we will get more work done in that span of time than a team would typically get done in a month due to the extreme focus and collaboration that occurs over that short burst of time.
These days there is a lot of software out there already just waiting to be put to use. There’s also a lot of services that are free or steeply discounted for nonprofit organizations. Web hosting, cloud computing, email, text messaging, the list goes on and on. We will leverage this stuff and build on top of it, allowing us to create a working prototype in just hours.
So what can be done in 48 hours? Here’s my advice: let the dsmHack committee ask you to pare down your project if need be. Come to us with your big ideas and we’ll help figure out a doable project. Join us at the nonprofit social on December 12th to learn more, hear from previous participants, and ask questions. Contact us with questions at firstname.lastname@example.org or submit an application on our website!